It’s the birthday of the 14th poet laureate of the United States, Donald Hall (books by this author), born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1928. He started writing poems when he was a kid at his grandparents’ farm in New Hampshire. When he was 16, he went to a writing conference and met Robert Frost, and later that year, he published his first poetry. He moved around for many years, studying and teaching at various universities, and at the University of Michigan, he met another poet, Jane Kenyon, and they got married and moved back to his grandparents’ farm. He said that moving there was like “coming home to the place of language.”
Hall and Kenyon wrote about each other and their life together. Jane Kenyon died of leukemia in 1995. Hall wrote Without (1998) about caring for his wife during her illness and living without her after her death. He also wrote children’s books, as well as books about baseball and the sculptor Henry Moore. His most recent books are Unpacking the Boxes: A Memoir of a Life in Poetry (2008) and The Back Chamber (2011).
He said: “I see no reason to spend your life writing poems unless your goal is to write great poems.”
And, “At sixteen the poet reads Whitman and Homer and wants to be immortal. Alas, at twenty-four the same poet wants to be in The New Yorker.”